As the #OscarsSoWhite controversy rages on, a bit of casting news is adding fuel to the fire of Hollywood’s diversity problem. British actor Joseph Fiennes is set to play the late Michael Jackson in an upcoming made-for-TV film about the singer’s rumored post-9/11 road trip with Elizabeth Taylor and Marlon Brando, the Guardian reports.
The alleged road trip was first reported in a 2011 Vanity Fair story. According to VF, Jackson had invited Taylor and Brando to his Madison Square Garden concert prior to the terrorist attacks in NYC. Afterward, the trio was stranded, unable to fly anywhere, so they rented a car to return to California, starting an unlikely road trip.
The dramatized version, which is being promoted as a “one-off special” for British channel Sky Arts, will feature Fiennes as Jackson, Stockard Channing as Taylor and Brian Cox as Brando. It is currently titled Elizabeth, Michael and Marlon.
The real-life story has never been verified, and one of Taylor’s assistants told Vanity Fair that the actress actually stayed in New York and visited Ground Zero after 9/11.
Fiennes, 45, has described the script as “a fun, lighthearted, tongue-in-cheek road trip of what celebrity of that kind is like.”
Soon after the news was announced, critics took to Twitter to bash the film for casting a white actor to play the legendary black singer.
“The fact that the Joseph Fiennes & Charlie Hunnam whitewashing announcements are made during #OscarsSoWhite campaign says a whole lot,” @Lexialex tweeted.
@_nicomadden added, “So Joseph Fiennes (A WHITE DUDE!) is gunna play Michael Jackson… I say Denzel Washington plays Elvis in the next movie just to be fair.”
“Charlie Hunnam can play Mexican-American Edgar Valdez & Joseph Fiennes can play Michael Jackson, but Idris Elba can’t play Bond?” @HashtagLaToya tweeted, referencing the black British actor, who was bypassed for the role of the international spy.
Jackson, who died at age 50 in June 2009, had a chronic skin condition called vitiligo that lightened the color of his skin.
Joseph, the youngest brother of Harry Potter and Schindler’s List star Ralph Fiennes, is best known for his role as William Shakespeare in 1998’s Shakespeare in Love. He also played Monsignor Timothy Howard in American Horror Story and Merlin in Camelot.